Ammonia, You Make Me Groan-ya

When they’re not clean, my daughter’s cloth diaper inserts smell like ammonia.  Like burn your nose hair ammonia.  So I started researching and got lost in the millions of suggestions about what does and doesn’t work.  I’m not sure if I have detergent build-up or if it’s because we have hard water or if I’m using too much detergent or not enough detergent…All I know is that I want the ammonia smell gone.  I’ve tried so many things!  Here’s what I’ve tried so far (in no particular order):

  1. Stripped them once by boiling them on the stove for 30 minutes in a crowded pot
  2. Stripped them again by boiling them on the stove for 1 hour in three not-so-crowded pots and made the house into a swampy place
  3. Squirted Blue Dawn (yes, the dish washing detergent) into a hot wash and rinse, rinse, rinse.  Actually it was more like wash and then rinse cycle, rinse cycle, rinse cycle, rinse cycle,rinse cycle,rinse cycle,rinse cycle,rinse cycle,rinse cycle
  4. Soaked in ammonia assassin overnight then washed and rinsed, rinsed, rinsed – did this twice
  5. Soaked in RLR for 30 minutes and washed then rinsed – did this twice
  6. Added vinegar to a rinse
  7. Added baking soda to the wash
  8. Washed in hot with no detergent, rinsed, rinsed, rinsed, wash in hot with no detergent, rinsed, rinsed, rinsed, rinsed, washed in hot with no detergent, rinsed, rinsed
  9. Call the diaper therapists at gDiapers

After speaking to Gillian at gHQ, I feel better.  Apparently ammonia smell is to be expected with cloth diapers.  When pee sits for a while, it begins to break down and an ammonia smell is emitted from the diapers.  I want it to be omitted from MY diapers.  What Gillian said makes sense to me because it’s usually the overnight diapers that are the worst and the ammonia usually smells the worst on wash day (meaning a few of the diapers have been in the pail for about 36-48 hours).  We live in Orange County, CA where there is definitely hard water.  Apparently this makes the situation worse.  I’ve read that you shouldn’t use vinegar if you have hard water.  Others say you should use it but only during the rinse cycle.  Today I ordered some water softener; apparently that should help.  I like this packaging – it makes me smile and gives me hope.  Damn marketing worked again.  I may change detergents too. Lastly, I will rinse out the wet cloths before throwing them in the pail.

I guess what I’ve found frustrating about this is that there’s no clear answer on how to fix it.  Every water/washer/detergent/baby combination requires different care so there’s no one size fits all answer nor is there a definitive “here’s what you need to do.”  It seems like so many other things with parenting that this is a trial and error situation.  I’m just tired of trying and erring!

The good news is that they don’t smell when they’re clean.  Only when they are wet with urine.  Some people have it so bad that their cloths smell coming out of the dryer and their babies get rashes and sometimes blisters because of the build up.  Not good.  So I guess this is the ugly side of cloth diapering.  The other thing that bothers me about this whole thing is how much electricity and water I’ve used trying to fix our problem.  That’s not so earth friendly, which one of the reasons I cloth diaper to begin with.  Sigh.  Nothing’s perfect I guess but I’m going to stick with it.  I still love my baby’s big ol’ bum in these diapers!

Update posted here


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